At the center of Tiananmen Square, Beijing we noted a giant display counting down the days, hours, and seconds until something. We though it was for the Millennium; but doing a quick calculation, the figures were wrong. Were the Chinese using a different New Year's date? No, the calculation was for Dec. 20, 1999 when Portugal turned Macau back to China.
Macau lies at the end of a peninsula attached to mainland China directly west, across a large body of water called Zhujiang Kaú, from Hong Kong. It's major draw is gambling, though we didn't
You can fly to Macau, drive in from mainland China, or take the rapid ferry from Hong Kong. We chose a 1999/ 10/ 19 (Chinese place the year, month, day) ferry from Kowloon to Macau. Since we were elderly (seniors), we got a special rate. Many activities offered a special rate for the "elderly" at cultural events, galleries and museums, and for transportation.
Always check at the local tourist office for the definition of elderly/ senior and the activities offered.
Throughout Asia, there are many levels of charges, the "Westerners are all wealthy, " "tops for any adult," government regulated adult, government regulated elderly, "just skim a little," and "either accept it or they won't buy." The trick is finding the government regulated price (you really cannot bargain lower than what is regulated).
The rapid ferry is a jet propelled, cathedral hull boat seating about 350 passengers on two levels. It is quite comfortable. Food and drink are available, and the travel time between Hong Kong and Macau is about an hour.
Macau is very small. A tour runs from 50 – 100 HK$ dollars ($6.50 to $13 US) and takes a couple hours depending upon how often the driver wants to stop and get you to buy things from his friends and business associates.
We opted to take the bus to Leal Senado, an historic building that is the main administrative building, legal library, and art gallery. It houses the Portugese archives. It is also across from the entrance to a major cluster of shops featuring cloths, accessories and antiques.
When we got hungry, I asked one of the store guards where I could get some good Portuguese food and he pointed me to the Safari. We had heard about this establishment in several contexts and decided to check it out. A couple bottles of Mateus Rosé and dishes of seafood later, we were ready to hit the street again. Lunch and wine for three came to 243 patacas (about $25 US).
Patacas are the official currency of Macua, but Hong Kong dollars are freely exchanged on the street.
Back in the shopping district, my wife bought a nice woolly vest by Baleno and several pairs of slacks. I bought a great car coat by John Harris. We spent under $50 for our jacket, vest, and several pair of pants.
For the next couple of hours we walked the streets, poked our noses into the shops, and toured a couple of historical churches and administrative buildings. When it was time for our boat, we jumped into a taxi and sped back to the terminal.
On the ride back to Hong Kong we passed several ferries full of passengers either returning from a day's business in Hong Kong, or on their way to an evenings gambling in Macau.
I didn't appreciate how fast I was traveling until we passed another boat going about the same speed in the opposite direction. It was a case of now you see it, now you don't.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Macau following its return to China. My guess is it will be absorbed by China and disappear as an economic force.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, is an economic power house and I expect it to persevere as one of China's primary economic centers along with Shanghai and Beijing.
Editor's note: Next, China by train.


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